As missiles rained down on the people of Vinnytsia, Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least 22 and injuring dozens more, 2,000 kilometers away, in The Hague, Netherlands, a conference was being held on possible war crimes committed by Russian state-sponsored terrorists against Ukrainians.

Top judicial official from across Europe attended the event which sought to discuss what war crimes have been committed in the 140 days of Russia’ war against Ukraine, Expected attendees included the EU Justice Commissioner, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to address the conference via video.

Kyiv dispatched its top war crimes prosecutor and other officials to attend the event, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was expected to make a video appearance.

There have been widespread allegations by Ukrainian and Western officials alike that thousands of war crimes have been committed during the invasion. The nature of War Crimes has varied greatly, but have included torture, forced deportations, rape, murder, among other crimes. By the end of May of this year, Ukraine had calculated that more than 15,000 war crimes had been committed against her citizens during the course of Russia’s war.

Russia has generally ignored international pressure on the war crimes allegations and has typically classified specific alleged criminal cases as being “fake news,” or has floated conspiracy theories to avoid accepting responsibility for the actions of its military.

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 19, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 19, 2024

Latest from the Institute for the Study of War.

The conference will seek to identify coherent strategies for states to share experience, make available evidence of crimes to other government entities, and to develop an overall strategy for the prosecution of the war crimes. It is hoped that by creating a collaborative framework, prosecutors will not duplicate work and to clarify jurisdictions and tasks.

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Aside from the ongoing investigation by the ICC, multiple war crimes investigations have already been launched by European countries who are applying the principle of “universal declaration,” a legal concept that some violations of law have a jurisdiction beyond national borders as some crimes, such as war crimes, are against all of humanity.

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